CONCORD, N.C. -- William Byron said a meal at a local family restaurant with new crew chief Rudy Fugle was all he needed to see if the pair would gel in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The 23-year-old driver sat down with Fugle at a TGI Friday’s in Concord, North Carolina, after it was announced Fugle would take over for No. 24 crew chief Chad Knaus. At the end of September, Knaus revealed he would be taking on an executive role at Hendrick Motorsports, leaving the spot atop the No. 24 team’s pit box open.
“Rudy knows I’m a pretty picky eater, so he chose that one because they have chicken tenders and fries,” Byron joked. “So, it was perfect.”
Chicken tenders aside, the meeting was Byron’s way of seeing if the two still clicked after more than three seasons passed since they worked together. In 2016, Fugle was Byron’s crew chief in the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series. During Byron’s rookie season, the pair won seven of 23 races and Fugle won the owner’s title.
“When I was first working with him at (Kyle Busch Motorsports), it was more just surface-level questions about just the basics – things I needed to execute well, like getting on pit road,” Byron said. “But a lot of the set-up stuff and the ideas behind it, I never really asked those questions. I wasn’t far enough along to really understand it. I feel like this time around, the conversations when we met back at the end of August were much more detailed and more specific.
“We hit it off right away in terms of those things and he opened up to me more about the details. I just wasn’t experienced enough to know that stuff when I was 18 years old. I kind of had to go out on my own, in a sense, and go through Xfinity and a few years of Cup to understand that stuff.”
Now that Byron feels he and Fugle will be a good fit in the Cup Series, he’s ready to hit the ground running. Byron credits seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s retirement, Chase Elliott’s historic championship win, and the addition of Kyle Larson to the No. 5 Chevrolet as fuel for the No. 24 team to be successful next season.
“I think seeing Chase go out there and win the championship like that was definitely a sign that, obviously, we’re capable,” Byron said. “I think the first year when I was here in 2018, how many growing pains there were for me, but also the race team to kind of find out footing with, really, three new drivers and one veteran guy.
“So, now it’s four new guys. I feel like three of us have been here for a while now and really established our trends, our feelings inside the team and what we want in our race cars. I think the bar has definitely been set now and it’s about just going out there and trying to achieve that.”